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Zoos & Aquariums Announce Programme To Save Frogs


New Zealand Conservation Management Group:
Australasian Regional Association of
Zoological Parks & Aquaria
New Zealand Branch Incorporated

16 June 2008

MEDIA RELEASE – For Immediate Release

Zoos & Aquariums Announce Programme To Save Frogs

During 2008, the world zoo and aquarium community is driving a public awareness and fundraising campaign to help address amphibian extinctions. The NZ programme will be launched at the annual CMaG: ARAZPA NZ Conference this week.

Worldwide, almost half of all amphibian species are threatened with extinction! This global amphibian crisis is the single largest mass extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs. The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the World Conservation Union have declared 2008 Year of the Frog. A critical part of their response is Amphibian Ark, which is helping to ensure that selected species that would otherwise go extinct will be maintained in captivity until they can be secured in the wild. Sir David Attenborough and Jean-Michel Cousteau are the patrons of Amphibian Ark.

The Year of the Frog campaign has two main objectives: raise awareness by highlighting ways people can become involved and raise funds for frog conservation. Collectively, members of the Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (ARAZPA) seek to raise A$400,000, representing $0.03 per paying visitor. The New Zealand campaign will run until June 09 and our official ambassadors are Ruud Kleinpaste (Buggin’ with Ruud) and Dr Phil Bishop (leader New Zealand Frog Research Group, University of Otago).

Ruud is delighted to be involved in this collaborative conservation campaign. He says “the amphibian crisis is particularly relevant in New Zealand as all four of our native species are listed in the top 100 most threatened amphibians in the world!”

“Frogs are important animals in our ecosystem. Their porous skin allows both air and water directly through it so they are susceptible to any and all pollutants in the environment. Frogs are often referred to as environmental indicators - our modern day 'canaries in the coal mine'. Importantly, amphibians also keep insect populations in check.”

NZ zoos and aquariums will implement a range of initiatives to meet the objectives of the campaign. New Zealanders can directly assist by visiting their local zoo and/or aquarium.

Dr Phil Bishop adds: “Amphibians are severely affected by habitat loss, climate change, pollution and pesticides, introduced species and over collection for food and pets. While habitat destruction is the major threat, one immediate cause is a parasitic fungus called amphibian chytrid, a disease that is deadly to hundreds of amphibian species. Amphibian chytrid is currently unstoppable and untreatable in the wild. It can kill 80% of native amphibians within months, causing widespread amphibian species extinctions.”

Martin Phillips, Executive Director of ARAZPA, adds: “This global effort is an unprecedented level of collaboration for a conservation programme. With over 600 million visitors to the world’s 1200 zoos and aquariums, this project has the potential to take conservation programmes to a new level.”

Native frog conservation in New Zealand
DOC has a Native Frog Recovery Group that advises DoC managers on management and research priorities for native frogs. The group is presently preparing a new recovery plan due for launching in early 2009. Back up populations have been created on separate off shore islands for Maud Island and Hamilton’s frogs (originally each species was only found on one island each) and captive populations established for Archey’s and Hochstetter’s frog. Predator control programmes, population monitoring and disease surveillance are also undertaken in priority frog populations where resources allow.

The captive industry plays an important advocacy role, some centres (Auckland Zoo, Hamilton Zoo and Karori Wildlife Sanctuary) are undertaking native frog conservation projects on-site whilst others (Orana Wildlife Park, Wellington Zoo) are reviewing holding a backup population.

- ENDS -

Notes to the editor:
1. About New Zealand Native Frogs
New Zealand once had seven native frog species but three became extinct after human habitation. The four remaining species are Archey’s, Hochstetter’s, Hamilton’s and Maud Island. Our frogs belong to an ancient and primitive group and have changed very little in millions of years. They are small, nocturnal and have superb camouflage. Unique features include:

• No tadpole stage – eggs are laid and fully formed froglets eventually hatch.
• They do not croak or live in water.
• No external eardrums.
• They have round, not slit eyes.

If people spot a native frog, they should inform the Department of Conservation (DOC) or Dr Phil Bishop of the location, habitat, date and time that the animal was seen. Photos are useful but people should avoid touching the animal.

Threats to New Zealand’s native frogs are:
• Introduced mammalian predators – especially rats and stoats.
• Amphibian chytrid fungus – present in Archey’s frog which has declined 80% on the Coromandel Peninsula in the last 10 years.
• Habitat loss and modification.
• Climate change.

Three introduced Australian species are also found around New Zealand: Green and Golden Bell, Southern Bell and Brown Tree Frogs. These frogs could spread the amphibian chytrid fungus disease and the public are encouraged not to move these frogs between ponds, lakes or wetlands.

2. About CMaG:ARAZPA NZ Inc
CMaG: ARAZPA NZ is the recognised representative organisation which acts, on behalf of its members, as the primary liaison and co-ordinating body for the captive industry in New Zealand. CMaG: ARAZPA NZ is the New Zealand branch of the regional zoo and aquarium association - ARAZPA (the Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria). CMaG: ARAZPA NZ also supports it members through regular species co-ordinators' reports, workshops and an annual conference. The New Zealand Species Management Programme (NZSMP) is the model for captive management programmes and aims to maximise the benefit of captive populations for conservation and to fulfil the requirements of the Department of Conservation's policies.

3. CMaG: ARAZPA NZ Conference Programme for presentations relating to Year of the Frog

Wednesday 18 June 2008

9.00am Welcome
9.05am Opening address: Lynn Anderson – Chairperson CMaG: ARAZPA NZ
9.15am Opening address: Chris Jenkins – Northland Conservator, DOC
9.30am Dr Phil Bishop, Otago University – The Amphibian Extinction Crisis: should we be worried?
10.30am Morning Tea
11.00am Ruud Klienpaste (The Bug Man) – Messages from Below
12.00 noon Lunch

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